This is one of those situations that does not have a happy ending. A woman died unexpectedly, and her employer shut down her email immediately after her death. Her surviving spouse knew that the woman had wanted him to have access to her emails, but it was too late.
These are the details, says an article from the Chicago Sun Times titled “Estate Planning: Now’s the time to prepare,” that can make the difference between a time when grief takes a back seat to logistics and a time when loved ones can focus on a major life-altering event.
As soon as you have assets to pass down to loved ones, you need to start planning your estate. If you start in your early 20s, it will become a habit and an on-going process.
Even if you don’t have a lot of assets, it doesn’t mean that you’re excused from planning for the worst situation.
Whether you do a basic estate plan, like putting a will, powers of attorney or a health care directive in place or if you need complex trusts and tax sheltering strategies, having an estate plan means you have a voice in what happens, even if you aren’t able to convey your wishes.
What do you need?
- Everyone needs a will.
- Everyone should review their beneficiary designations every few years to make sure the people named are still the people intended to receive the proceeds. That includes bank accounts, insurance policies, IRAs and more.
- Everyone needs health care and financial power of attorneys to outline their wishes.
If you are a parent, in most states, you need a will to name guardians for your minor children. You also need a 529 College Savings plan to start saving for college, which comes up faster than you can imagine.
You may need a trust, which offers more privacy than a will, because it keeps details about your private belongings and assets out of probate court.
You also need to organize your digital assets, as well as your financial and physical assets. Keep a list of your accounts and passwords. Most digital platforms from Facebook to Google to your financial institutions, have policies about what happens to the accounts and who has access.
Keep a list of your advisors and their contact information. That includes your Cincinnati estate planning attorney, CPA and financial advisor. You may want to have them meet your family members, so they are more comfortable with these advisors, when the time comes for them to work together.
As you move through the various stages of life, your plan will change. However, you should get started now, so the process becomes second nature. Your family will thank you.
Remember: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” When making your estate plan or when probating an estate or administering a trust, do not go it alone. Be sure to engage a Cincinnati estate planning attorney.
For more information about estate planning, probate or trust administration in Cincinnati (and throughout the rest of Southwest Ohio) and to review free resources regarding estate planning, probate or trust administration, visit my website. If you have questions regarding this article or a particular legal matter, feel free to contact me at 513-399-PLAN (7526).
Reference: Chicago Sun Times (Sep, 17, 2018) “Estate Planning: Now’s the time to prepare”